IT’S a big YES. Ireland is on course to back the European fiscal treaty with a vote of around 60pc after the first official results from constituencies were announced.
With official confirmation of the final figure expected mid-afternoon, the coalition Government was toasting success while key players in the No camp have conceded defeat.
Tipperary South was first to return results, for the second time in a row, and reported 61% of voters in favour while Galway East followed soon after with a strong 63% backing.
After five constituencies reported, the turnout was 50% of the 3.1 million eligible to vote.
Richard Bruton, Jobs Minister in the coalition Government, said he is confident that the pact has been supported by the people after tallies suggested at least a 60-40 majority.
"I would be confident it would be in the high 50s in our constituency which would be a good indicator," the minister said.
"Obviously it's early in the hunt and there are still many boxes to be opened but I think there are encouraging signs."
Declan Ganley, founder of the Libertas group who successfully campaigned against the European Union Lisbon treaty in 2008, accepted the early figures pointed to a Yes.
"It looks like it's a yes vote," he told RTE Radio.
With counting under way for less than two hours the senior political figures made the dramatic declaration after a relatively low voter turnout.
Ireland will now be the fourth country in the European Union to ratify strict new rules to rein in budget spending and set the groundwork for future bailout mechanisms in the eurozone.
Polls in the run up to the referendum had predicted safe passage for the pact with a 60-40 majority.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, at his home constituency in Castlebar, Co Mayo this morning, said he would be speaking to European leaders as the day went on.
"There are a number of prime ministers from around Europe who've been in contact, who I will have to speak to today," he said.
The Taoiseach insisted that the referendum would always have only have been put to the people once, unlike previous popular votes on European reforms.
"I've made it clear it was a one off," Mr Kenny said.
"We have to abide by and accept the people's decision."
Socialist MEP Paul Murphy later also accepted defeat.
"For this referendum, it looks like the game is over, but the battle on austerity continues. It goes back to the communities, to the work places," Mr Murphy said.
"I think it's certainly looking like it's going to be a Yes vote. It's looking like there's been strong class polarisation where working class areas have been voting No and the more affluent areas have voted Yes in high numbers.
"If it's a Yes, which I think it will be, it's no endorsement of this Government, it's no endorsement of what's in this treaty and it's no endorsement of austerity. People are scared out there."